We had thought that we would have been able to tackle Mao’s Mausoleum and the Forbidden City in the same day given the proximity of these sites, so had set out to do that. We were told the line to see Mao was ridiculously long and so we woke up early to get there just as the tomb would open.
Ewan and I left the hostel and maneuvered through Tiananmen Square’s chaos to figure out where the bag check was located (no bags/cameras allowed!!). In retrospect, the bag check line-ups were way worse than going through the mausoleum. At the mausoleum there are guards everywhere and not only can you not stop and stand, you have to keep moving at a pace satisfactory to them; at the bag drop everyone was butting in line and there were only a couple workers taking in and giving back each personal item.
Of course the line up to Mao was filled with throngs of Chinese tourists; there were few foreign tourists and we certainly were given plenty of odd looks. In the line ups before entering the building there were flowers for sale and once you entered there was a huge room where the flowers were laid in front of a statue of Mao.
The line we were in was split into two and you were told to go side by side (in two’s) into the chamber where you will see Mao. Ewan and I shuffled along, pressed by the anxious masses behind us.
As we entered the small room there was a huge glassed in area with Mao in his casket; allowing viewers no more than likely 10 feet close to him. While the guides harangued everyone to keep moving, everyone was craning their necks to their side to catch a glimpse of Mao’s face, the only bit of him exposed. In all of 10 seconds it was over.
As we exited the mausoleum, we couldn’t help but think of Madame Tussaud wax museums. True, I have never seen a dead body before, but Mao died in 1976…I don’t think 36 year old bodies would have been so shiny and waxen.
All in all though, I am happy we went…It was really something else to experience the love and adoration you could feel emanating from the Chinese people as they waited in anticipation to pay respects to their Great Helmsman.
After the mausoleum we took in Tiananmen Square while waiting to meet up with Shaun and Vivianne. It was impressive to see the massive square filled to the brim with tourists, and of course all the guards and cameras to monitor the masses. I must admit that I wasn’t in the mood to be a novelty for Mainland Chinese tourists who wanted to get a picture of a white girl (either sneakily or blatantly). Thankfully we found Vivianne!
We found out from Viv that Shaun was feeling ill so was staying in the hostel. So we trashed our plans to see the Forbidden City and went around to see a bunch of random sites that Shaun didn’t care much to see so wouldn’t miss out.
From Tiananmen Square, we walked and checked out the Centre for Performing Arts. The structure was impressive and we were curious to go inside, but of course you had to pay so we just enjoyed the exterior.
We then hit the subway and went all the way out to the Olympic area to check out the crazy Olympic Stadiums and architecture! It was well worth the visit though we only looked from afar.
It was scorching hot that day, so we went to a nearby convention centre for some grub before heading to our final site of the day…the CCTV Building, known as the ‘Big Underpants’. After going to the United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong, New York, and many other urban cities, I think the underpants takes the prize of the oddest skyscraper I have ever seen!